One of the best things about living in Victoria is easy access to the southern Gulf Islands. From Swartz Bay, you can hop on a wee ferry and be on Salt Spring Island in just 35 minutes.
(Pssst, if you haven’t been there before, going to Salt Spring is basically like visiting The Shire. Think: rolling fertile hills, local everything, charming cottages and tiny villages.)
As soon as you set foot on the island you’ll want to let the laid-back hippie vibes take over and soak up some R&R. Here are five ways to get your Salt Spring on.
1) Check out a local farm
Salt Spring Island Cheese is known for its chevres, sold as far east as Toronto and as far south as California. Now is your chance to wander the farm, see the animals and taste the fresh cheese for yourself. Try the Basil Chevre or the White Juliette, made to taste like a goat Camembert. There’s even a café open for lunch from mid-June through till the end of August.
If you’re feeling thirsty, head over to Salt Spring Wild Cider for a glass of island-made cider in a historic farm setting (open Saturdays and Sundays). They offer sample flights, individual tastings and ciders to purchase and share on the farm. Take a picnic and soak up some Salt Spring.
2) Visit Salt Spring Island Saturday Market
Every Saturday from April through October, you can visit one of Canada’s best-loved outdoor arts, crafts and farm markets. Finds include fresh breads, soaps, flowers, pottery, pastries and paintings. The rule is vendors must “make it, bake it or grow it.” Live music and entertainment help make it a proper outing.
3) Hike Mount Erskine
The hike up Mount Erskine will get your heart rate up, but don’t worry — fairy doors seem to be perfectly positioned along the way so you can surreptitiously take a breather while investigating. Plus: what’s more quintessentially Salt Spring than fairy doors?
It takes about 45 minutes to reach the top, where there’s a stunning view all the way west to Chemainus and north to Howe Sound.
4) Drive up Mount Maxwell
If you want a great viewpoint minus the sweat, head for Mount Maxwell, where you can drive (or hike) to one of the highest ridges on Salt Spring. Keep your eyes peeled for eagles swooping off the cliff edges.
5) Kayak to Chocolate Beach
I’ve done this kayak trip twice and I still can’t wait to do it again. Plan for a two- to three-hour outing, during which you’ll paddle along a set of small islands en route to Chocolate Beach, a gleaming white shell beach on Third Sister Island.
Plan to take a picnic and chill out and enjoy this gorgeous beach, which feels more Mediterranean than Canadian. Island Escapades offers rentals and guided tours.
Where to Stay
Wondering where to stay? For a super luxurious getaway, check out Stonehouse Bed & Breakfast with its geothermal-heated hot tub, insanely indulgent rooms, panoramic views and its very own standing stone circle. Yes, seriously.
If you’re looking for something a little lower budget, check out Harbour House Hotel, Restaurant and Organic Farm.
What do you love to do on Salt Spring? Share your tips in the comments below.